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Laying down the law

Laying down the law

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday May 14 2014

The Daily Telegraph on Saturday published another story on the legal guidance by the Law Society for training purposes on preparing shari’ah complaint wills.

The newspaper reports the comments of Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who repeats the oft-mentioned caveats about the primacy of English law saying the guidance must not “undermine” British legal principles.

The paper quotes Grayling as saying:

“Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales and the Government has no intention to change this position.

“Wills in England and Wales are governed by English law, regardless of your religion, and this permits people to leave their possessions to whomever they choose.

“The Law Society will need to satisfy themselves that nothing in the course of guidance undermines the principle that Sharia law is not part of the law of England and Wales.”

The comments seem rather strange in their assumption that the Law Society would do anything other than advance guidance for the sector that was compatible with the law. But perhaps to assuage fears that ‘creeping shari’ah’ is not happening under our noses, it is important that lawmakers attest to this fact.

The Justice Secretary’s remarks are not dissimilar to the repetition of arguments by former Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, that English law remains supreme whatever the provisions available for religious tribunals under the Arbitration Act.

In a further twist on the trope about Muslims extracting ‘unreasonable accommodations’ the Telegraph invites the view of Conservative MP, Robert Buckland who, in response to a question about why the attention to shari’ah, said “Why is the Law Society not teaching the Old Testament or the New Testament?”

The Law Society’s guidance responds to a need among lawyers to satisfy the wishes of their Muslim clients to draft wills reflective of their desires. It is a set of guidelines for the profession and not an exercise in religious education or, as President of the Law Society Nicholas Fluck said, in “promoting” shari’ah law.


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